I waited for a few hours, hoping Wisma Putra to issue an official statement of condolence to the people of Cambodia for the demise of their former leader Norodom Sihanouk.
I guess Anifah Aman was too busy in Manila, and at home.
However, let me express my deepest condolence to my friends at the Cambodian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur, the Cambodians in Malaysia and in the Kingdom for the big loss.
The former king, who remained an influential figure through a tumultuous
five decades of war, genocide and upheaval, died in Beijing at the age
of 89 early yesterday. Sihanouk will be remembered as perhaps the most
adaptable king in modern history.
Reigning over the country during its most turbulent period, Sihanouk witnessed its political transition from an absolute monarchy to a
A sharp wit and flamboyant style were the French-educated king's
weapons in the struggle to find accommodation with colonial France. He
then helped forge a bloodless transition to independence in 1953, going
on to make a stand against imperialism by forging alliances with newly
independent countries throughout the world.
A confirmed nationalist, Sihanouk tried but failed to steer Cambodia
away from the Cold War rivalry that was dividing Southeast Asia in the
1960s and '70s, taking a neutral stance. When his country was invited by
Thailand to become a founding member of Asean in 1967, he countered
that Asean was an imperial tool. Ever the francophile, he also asked
that the new organisation use French as its working language. The
request was denied.
During the Cold War, Sihanouk was credited with modernising his
country's education system and re-establishing ties with the US and
Europe, though he was determined that Cambodia be seen as independent
He was one of Southeast Asia's main players during the so-called
Vietnam War, which spilled into Cambodia with devastating effect and
eventually helped bring Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge to power. As he struggled
to control a changing political scene, Sihanouk held numerous posts,
including prime minister, president and leader of various governments in
During the Cambodian civil war he backed the anti-Vietnamese coalition
comprising the Khmer Rouge, his son Prince Norodom Ranariddh and former
premier Son Sann.
For 13 years they fought alongside Asean to expel foreign troops
occupying Cambodia. After striking an ill-fated deal with the Khmer
Rouge, the exiled Sihanouk returned to Cambodia as head of state, but he
remained confined to the palace for most of the four years of Khmer
Rouge rule, when an estimated 1.7 million people died.
Sihanouk later condemned the Khmer Rouge for the genocide, which claimed the lives of several of his own children.
For years he shuttled back and forth between Cambodia and Thailand,
working behind the scenes to bring a diplomatic solution to the
conflict. Sihanouk's mercurial character was ever-present at the
negotiation table and he was a pivotal figure in talks that eventually
brought peace in 1991. He was restored as the constitutional monarch
following UN-sanctioned elections.
When I visited Phnom Penh in 1994, I had a close encounter with him but was not allowed an interview. He was not well at that particular time.
Sihanouk is a true nationalist, to me...